Right after a car crash, insurance probably isn't the first thing on your mind. Instead, you're cataloging your injuries, checking that everyone else in your car is safe, and waiting for the police to come so you can file a report.
But once you've dealt with the physical harm caused by the crash, you have to look at practical considerations like getting your car back on the road. Usually, the damage from a crash - even a minor fender bender - is extensive enough that you'll need to file an insurance claim.
Ideally, your insurance company or that of the person who hit you should be responsible for paying for the majority of the repairs. The process sounds simple enough, but what if the auto body shop that repairs your car and your insurance company disagree on how much the car repairs should cost?
In this case, you'll probably depend on an appraisal clause, a brief paragraph included in most insurance policies that can ultimately determine how much your insurance company will pay for your car's repair and how much you'll have to pay out of pocket.
Keep reading to learn more about how this small section of your insurance policy can impact the time it takes for you to get back on the road.
What Is an Appraisal Clause?
An appraisal clause is a paragraph included in many insurance policies, stating that if the insurance company and the auto body shop that repaired the car can't agree on the cost of repairs, either party can request an appraisal.
Why Would the Insurance Company and Auto Body Shop Disagree?
While insurance companies are in the business of protecting customers' cars, they don't have the same information and experience with car repair as experienced auto body shop employees. The insurance company might simply misunderstand the full extent of the damage or why each repair is necessary.
Unfortunately, in some cases, your insurance company could be trying to save money by nudging you towards a low-quality repair that costs less.
How Do You Request an Appraisal?
If your insurance policy contains an appraisal clause, you should submit a letter to your insurance company requesting an appraisal. The insurance company can submit the same type of letter to you if they disagree with the amount that you believe they should pay.
Once you have sent or received your letter, both the insurance company and the body shop will find their own appraiser. Ideally, each appraiser will review the case from an objective viewpoint by going through the facts of the collision, assessing the car's damage, and reviewing the necessity and quality of the repairs to reach a solid dollar amount.
The two appraisers will also find an umpire, or third-party appraiser, if they can't agree on an amount. The umpire will perform a separate appraisal and make the ultimate decision on how much the insurance company must pay.
Who Pays for an Appraisal?
You will have to pay for your own appraiser, just as the insurance company will have to pay for theirs. If the two appraisers can't agree on a cost and the umpire has to make the final decision, you and your insurance company will likely split the cost of hiring the umpire.
How Can my Auto Body Shop Help?
Hopefully, when you brought your car in for repairs after the collision, you chose an auto body shop with experienced professionals who are dedicated to making sure your car is completely restored post-crash. A good auto body shop should be upfront with you and your insurance company about the cost and willing to go to bat for you if the insurance company tries to shortchange you.
At Jim's Auto Body in Concord, we're experienced in both repairing cars and working with insurance companies. Get in touch with us after a crash to get an accurate estimate of what your car repair will cost.